Legislative Update June 2, 2017
In the Senate, it was raining amendments
There were no surprises as the Senate this week passed its version of the 2018-2019 Biennial Budget, voting 14-9 along party lines to approve the $11.8 billion spending plan. In a Wednesday session that lasted some 10 hours, Democrats unsuccessfully offered more than two dozen amendments addressing priorities they said were underfunded in the budget. They repeatedly pointed out that the budget is smaller than the one proposed by Governor Chris Sununu, and said it does not do enough to meet critical social needs. The Republican majority maintains their version, which includes business tax cuts along with additional funding for several aspects of human services, as well as the community college system and local infrastructure, is a responsible budget. The Senate will send the budget over to the House on Monday, where that chamber is expected to non-concur and request a committee of conference.
Goldilocks, call your office
House Democrats say the budget is too cold, while some House Republicans say it’s too hot. The Republican leadership and the majority of that caucus think the budget porridge tastes just right. No matter what, the recipe will change in the coming weeks as lawmakers sit down to negotiate. Senators have said they want House members to be a partner in crafting a final budget, even though the House budget, which never passed, was $1 million larger than the Senate’s. Governor Sununu gets to taste the porridge, too, and his opinion may help determine what ingredients get added in or taken out.
Oh, yeah, that other biennial budget
The Senate approved a 2018-2019 Capital Budget of just under $125 million. The Capital Budget deals with bonding for larger projects. Senators added $3 million for the Affordable Housing Fund, raising it from the $500,000 the House had proposed, and $12 million for renovations at the Rochester CTE Center, which the House had not included in its version.
In other news
The legislature did have business other than the budget this week. Bills adopted by either chamber, if they were amended, must go back to the originating chamber for concurrence, non-concurrence or non-concurrence with a committee of conference request to see if differences can be worked out.
• Easily passed a bill that legalizes Keno gaming and uses proceeds from it to fund a full-day kindergarten program. The Senate had already passed the kindergarten bill, but did not favor Keno and decided to study the House Keno bill. Full-day kindergarten is a priority for Governor Sununu. The two issues now become bargaining chips in the budget negotiations.
• Attached drone regulation legislation onto a Senate bill. The Senate has killed House-passed drone legislation in each of the past several sessions, including the House bill offered this year.
• Concurred with the Senate on a bill decriminalizing possession of three-quarters of an ounce or less of marijuana. The Governor has said he will sign the bill.
• Passed “the Croydon bill” that will allow towns that do not have public school for certain grades to contract with non-sectarian private schools or other public schools to accept those children.
Along with passing the budget, the Senate:
• Voted to pass a bill that includes $20 million in spending over the next two years to address mental health care and child protection. It also directs the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a 10-year plan for mental health services.
• Passed a bill that would allow the state to react quickly in the event Congress makes changes to the federal Affordable Care Act. Under the measure, the state Insurance Department could consider a menu of options, including reopening the state’s high-risk pool.
• Voted to legalize poker in private residences, with some restrictions.
The House paused for a moment of silence and adopted a memorial resolution for Rep. William Polewarczyk of Chester, who passed away suddenly several weeks ago.
The House and the Senate will meet in session next Thursday, June 8th.